16th July 2013

Boris ignores countryside in favour of politics

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has condemned Boris Johnson’s latest intervention in the debate about UK airport capacity. This follows the announcement yesterday [15 July] by the London Mayor that Stansted was still on his short-list to become a four runway mega-hub airport to replace Heathrow.

Justifying his decision to short-list Stansted, Boris Johnson said that it had the benefit of “being sited in a relatively sparsely populated region… with none of the environmental or wildlife issues that would need to be overcome in the estuary.”

The London Mayor’s dismissal of the environmental issues at Stansted is completely at odds with every independent assessment carried out in the past. Graham Eyre QC, the last planning inspector to consider the possibility of additional runways at Stansted, rejected this out of hand in the strongest possible terms, saying that even one extra runway would be an “environmental disaster”, “a catastrophe”, and “wholly unacceptable”.

These conclusions are not surprising since Uttlesford District, which is home to Stansted Airport, has more pre-1700 listed buildings than any other local authority in the country except the City of London. In addition, the historic listed buildings and villages around Stansted are embedded in what Oliver Rackham, the great historian of the English countryside, has defined as ‘Ancient Countryside’, a landscape whose fields, woods and roads date predominantly from before 1700. These points alone make this part of North West Essex and East Herts a most remarkable and valuable area of English countryside.

SSE Chairman Peter Sanders commented: “Boris Johnson’s dismissal of our local heritage and landscape is an affront to all the people of North West Essex and East Herts. It seems clear that he has absolutely no knowledge of the area.”

Mr Sanders added: “As Mayor of London, of course, he has no need to involve himself in our affairs. He is responsible only for what goes on in London and he depends only on Londoners for votes. It is surely no coincidence that he rejects expanding Heathrow, which is within his constituency, and all of his options for airport expansion are well outside his constituency. It remains our view that there is no need for any extra runways in the south-east.”


  • The area around Stansted Airport was characterised by John Betjeman as: “… a quiet, prosperous, agricultural area of old stone and flint churches, pargetted cottages with red tiled roofs, spreading farms and gabled manor houses, little hills, elms, oaks, willowy streams and twisty lanes leading to towns of such renowned beauty as Thaxted and Saffron Walden. The very fact that this country is so gentle, unobvious and typical of the best of England makes it all the more important that, being so near to London, it is preserved from noise and development.”
  • ‘Ancient Countryside’ is defined as districts whose fields, woods and roads etc date predominantly from before A.D. 1700, and Oliver Rackham has described it as ‘the England of hamlets, medieval farms in hollows of the hills, lonely moats and great barns in the clay-lands, pollards and ancient trees, cavernous Holloways and many footpaths, fords, irregularly shaped groves with thick hedges colourful with maple, dogwood and spindle – an intricate land of mystery and surprise.’ [‘The History of the Countryside’, Oliver Rackham, Dent, 1986.]

Campaigning to ensure Stansted Airport's authorised operations stay below harmful limits